Transportation is the No. 1 problem in Miami-Dade — that’s news to no one.
Miami Beach seems to bear the brunt of the challenge. Daily traffic jams trap and torture residents, tourists and people trying to get to work at the fun capital.
A Miami Herald series on housekeepers in Miami Beach in May, offered a glimpse into how trying life can be for those who take public transportation or drive a car to work there.
Some hotel housekeepers reported taking two to three buses to get from the mainland to the Beach. Their commutes could stretch to three hours or more — one way — depending on traffic and the reliability of buses.
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Those who drive to work too often have to circle the streets for long periods for a parking spot — or give up and spend $20 for the day at a lot.
A new way of making it to work may be in sight for the thousands of Beach hospitality workers. And that’s welcome news.
It all rests on a proposed ballot initiative offered up by union Unite Here Local 355, the only hotel worker union in Miami-Dade. Their initiative seeks to have some large hotels in Miami Beach provide transportation for their employees through monthly transit passes, ride-sharing credits or van-pool shuttles, the Miami Herald reported this week.
The plan requires almost 4,500 signatures from registered Miami Beach voters before it can start the process of landing on the city’s ballot.
Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine told the Editorial Board on Monday he loves the idea and sees it as a win-win for hotel employees, residents and the hotels in Mid-Beach, where the proposal would be launched.
“I think it’s an innovative, exciting idea that would help both our workers and help reduce traffic on Miami Beach. I don’t see why the large hotels would be against it,” the mayor said.
We like the idea, too, but need to know more.
The Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association did not comment for the Herald’s Aug. 20 story. But it needs to, soon. First, it’s a chance to show some of the industry’s overburdened workers just how highly they are valued. Second, it’s an opportunity to make a counter-pitch, to actually work with the union to come up with innovative solutions that work for all sides.
Under Unite Here’s proposal, only large hotels in Mid-Beach — on Collins Avenue between 23rd and 63rd Streets — with more than 250 rooms would be affected — 11 properties in all. The union chose the area because it is home to some of the largest hotels in the Beach, including the 1,504-room Fontainebleau and 631-room Eden Roc, and employs about 6,000 hotel workers.
Only hotel employees who work an average of at least 10 hours per week, and who aren’t offered parking by their employers within a quarter mile of a hotel, would be eligible to receive supplemental parking credits. Hotels would be required to offer a transit card for public transportation — including the bus, Metrorail or Metromover — equal to the cost of Miami-Dade Transit’s monthly EasyCard — about $112.
Alternatively, credits equal to that same amount could be offered for travel via car services such as Uber or for van transport services.
Miami-Dade’s traffic woes will not be solved with one magic bullet, and that is why initiatives like this — small fixes with real-world impact — are imperative to the overall solution that’s so desperately needed.